Composting is an increasingly popular method of recycling organic materials. It is an ancient practice; and low-technology farmers around the world have always composted manure and other organic materials for application to their crops. In fact, composting is one of the central activities in all methods of organic agriculture.
Any raw, organic materials containing vegetable or animal matter can be successfully composted. The composting reactions are mostly carried out by bacteria and fungi, along with other microorganisms and invertebrates of many kinds (earthworms can be highly effective in this regard). Composting proceeds best if the material is kept warm and is occasionally turned to increase the availability of oxygen. Composting can be done by individual householders, or in large, centralized, municipal facilities. The end-product is an amorphous, organic-rich material (or compost), which is extremely useful as an amendment to increase the organic-matter concentration of soil and enhance its tilth. Compost is also useful as an organic fertilizer. The compost can be given or sold to local horticulturists, or to farmers.
Household materials that can be readily composted include: tree leaves, lawn clippings, vegetable and fruit peelings and other food left-overs, seaweed, shredded cardboard, newspapers, other kinds of paper, dryer lint (if derived from cotton and other natural fabrics), livestock manure, hair, feathers, and meat. Egg-shells and wood ash can also be added to increase the nutrient content and neutralize acidity. Materials that should not be added to composters include: seed-bearing weed residues, walnut or eucalyptus leaves (these contain natural chemicals that can be toxic to cultivated plants), or dog and cat dung.